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American Studies: Primary Sources

A guide to resources for American Studies at Salem State University.

What are Primary Sources?



Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons. These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research.

By the Instruction & Research Services Committee of the Reference and User Service Association History Section in the American Library Association. 

Local and New England Resources

Art, Architecture & Music Sources


Primary Sources for American Studies Online

Digitized Book Collections

Print Primary Sources for American Studies


What They Said     Ref. D410 .W46 1995  (The Salem State University Library has volumes for the years 1969-1995)


The Complete Bill of Rights : the drafts, debates, sources and origins  edited by Neil H. Cogan     Ref. KF 4744 1997

Documents of American Indian Diplomacy : treaties, agreements, and conventions, 1775-1979  compiled by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Raymond J. DeMallie   Ref. KF 8202 1999 (2 volumes)

Documents of American History   edited by Henry Steele Commager      Ref. E 173 .C66 1973c  (Earlier editions are located in the library stacks and may be checked out.)

Historic Documents    Ref. E 839.5 .H57   (Salem State College Library holds volumes for 1972-present.  Volumes for the years 2005-present are shelved in the reference section, earlier editions can be found in the stacks.)  

Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court    REF KF 4549 .L37 199




Historical Newspapers and Periodicals